The month of October is winding down and soon we’ll be putting on costumes and yelling “Trick or Treat!” With Halloween in sight, I want to use this post to discuss something that really, truly scares me. The Bible. Yes I said it, the Bible. Okay, so not all of the Bible, but definitely certain parts of it. And not the parts you might guess, like the references to hell, or Satan, or persecution, etc. No, the biblical accounts that set me trembling are those that tell of leaders whose underestimation their sin left the callings on their lives unfulfilled.
How was it that one of Jesus’ own disciples ended up as His betrayer? How bad must it have been to be eaten to death by worms? Or be swallowed alive by the earth? It’s in there, people...Judas Iscariot, Herod Agrippa, and the sin of Korah in Numbers 16, all terrifying. But the one biblical figure’s life that haunts me more than any other as a Christian leader is that of Saul, Israel’s first earthly king.
Years prior to the end of Saul’s life and reign, God had rejected him as His choice ruler for Israel. The account of Saul’s disobedience that led to this rejection is given in 1 Samuel 15. There Saul is confronted by the prophet Samuel, who after recounting the Lord’s original command to him asks, “Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?” Saul’s response in vv. 20-21 is telling. First he reveals his immaturity when at the start he defensively argues his innocence in the matter while pointing to the people as the real culprits. Then his unfamiliarity with God is demonstrated when he explains that the best of their enemy’s spoils, after all, were held back to be offered in sacrifice to God! Surely Samuel would esteem such a noble motive, right? Wrong.
Samuel reminds Saul that God prefers obedience to sacrifice any day. Not only was Saul unaware of what would displease God, but notice also in v. 21 and later in v. 30 that he refers to Yahweh as “the Lord your God,” that being this God that Samuel served. Saul gives no indication here that he knows how to approach God without the help and aid of the prophet. He eventually does acknowledge his sin but no repentance takes place. If our walks with God are not personal to us, then neither will our sin be personal to us. And if our sin is not personal to us, well, you get the picture...the ending ain’t pretty!
Saul then, who once knew the anointing of God, forsook the fulfillment of his calling and was relegated to living out the rest of his days with the understanding of what once was but would now never be. I honestly can’t imagine a much worse existence. And since I’m not above Saul in the sin department, the reality of this possibility taking place in my own life is frightening to me, but there is hope.
Israel’s next ruler, the beloved king David, was a man after God’s own heart. But he too had his flaws and actually committed such a sin of treachery that is nearly unprecedented elsewhere in the Bible. David’s response to his sin however, when confronted by the prophet Nathan as is told in 2 Samuel 12 and later in Psalm 51, is vastly different from Saul.
In 2 Samuel 12:13 David takes immediate responsibility for his sin and rather than justifying himself he firmly acknowledges in Psalm 51 that God is justified in finding him guilty. Nathan has no need to remind David of the type of repentance God seeks, for David himself says in Psalm 51:16-17, “For You do not delight in sacrifices, otherwise I would give it...the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit and a contrite heart.” David consults no middle-man but addresses God directly and in doing so models this very brokenness as he begs for mercy and the type of cleansing he knows only God can perform. David’s sin still had lasting consequences as it always does, but his life and reign were spared of a removal of God’s anointing.
The reality of sin is scary. At one point or another it takes its turn in crouching at the door of every leader. And inevitably there are times when we entertain the temptations rather than flee them as we should. When that happens, what will our response be? Will we take it lightly and possibly allow sin to keep us from fulfilling our kingdom role as God intended? Talk about living in a haunted house! Or will we be like David and deal with the sin and let God deal with us? With both testimonies in mind, I’m going for the model set by David, and I hope you will too.